• SumoMe

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka features a salesman named Gregor who one day wakes up and finds himself transformed into a hideous unspecified beetle of sorts. Of course, it takes some time to get adjusted to his new body, and it’s only when he’s late for work (which he never was before) that his family becomes concerned. They bang on his locked door to get him to go to work, but they can’t understand him as his voice is transformed, unbeknownst to Gregor. After hours struggling, Gregor gets the door open with his mouth and goes through the doorway. His family is immediately disgusted with his appearance, and his father chases him back in the room with a rolled up newspaper.

Eventually, Gregor becomes used to his new body as he climbs the walls and ceiling of his room. However, his father continually expresses his disgust with him. His sister is more understanding, and feeds Gregor table scraps every day while he hides from her to not frighten her. As time goes by, his father cracks the door to his room so Gregor can see his family and the poverty that resulted from Gregor’s inability to work as a (previously) successful salesman. As a result of this poverty, the family must take in boarders to help pay rent, and Gregor’s sister slowly begins to resent him for the burden he’s put on his family. The family begins to voice their opinions on whether they should wait for Gregor to leave on his own or kill him–he is an insect, after all. Unknown to the family, Gregor can still understand them, and Gregor goes into a stage of depression which continues until the climax of the book.

What is otherwise a very enthralling story has a double meaning, as Gregor is believed to really be Kafka himself. Kafka used to sell insurance as a full-time job, which provided a steady stream of money. However, he found it extremely difficult to focus on his writing while working at this job. Therefore, he quit and started writing full-time (without pay). Kafka’s story of Gregor changing into an insect is really the story of Kafka changing into a writer and the subsequent familial fallout.

What is so great about this book is how well Kafka infuses the story of his life as a writer with the life of a human-turned-bug. The Metamorphosis is applicable to anyone who went after something they loved at the cost of something they tolerated. For many people, following their dreams means diverting away from stability (at least for a short time), and this struggle is one that men often face–should they continue their job as a salesman, or should they follow their passion and restore automobiles all day. While this is a contrived example, the tension is similar in most scenarios of this type.

While there’s no way to give a blanket answer for each man’s tension of this type, reading The Metamorphosis is certainly enlightening insofar as it gives one man’s account for the change in his life upon his choice to follow his dreams.

Have you read The Metamorphosis? What are your thoughts on the work? Give your critique and thoughts on the book in the comments below.